Photo: On March 13, a school bus struck one of Heartland Power Cooperative’s poles after sliding off an icy gravel road, causing the power pole to land on the bus in the ditch. The cooperative’s equipment detected the event and automatically cut power to the power line. However, school personnel and first responders knew to assume the power line was energized until Heartland crews arrived on the scene to ensure safety. All students remained on the bus until the co-op’s crews verified it was safe to evacuate. If you ever find yourself in this type of situation, notify authorities and stay in the vehicle until you know all power is dead and grounded. Photo courtesy of Heartland Power Cooperative
BY JOHN DVORAK
Call before you dig
Spring is prime time for landscaping projects and “honey do” lists around the home. Remember to contact Iowa One Call at least two business days before you dig to any depth so underground utilities can be properly located. It’s the law, and it could just save your life! Buried utility lines are everywhere, and an underground utility line is damaged every six minutes in the U.S. because someone decided to dig without calling 811 first.
Safety in the field
As you head into the fields to plant, always make sure to keep a 10-foot clearance between your equipment and power lines. Take time to study where all overhead power lines, poles and guy wires are located on your property and inform your workers about them. Plan your route between fields and on public roads so that you avoid low-hanging power lines; never attempt to raise or move a power line to clear a path. When moving large equipment or high loads near a power line, always use a spotter to help make sure that contact is not made with a line.
If equipment comes into contact with a power line, assume the line is energized and deadly. The operator should NOT get off the machinery unless in immediate danger. If the operator touches the ground and the equipment at the same time, he or she will become a path for electricity. Instead, the operator should stay on the equipment and contact the local electric utility or 911 immediately to report the incident so electricity can be shut off safely before exiting.
When thunder roars, go indoors!
Spring storms will be here soon, so remember that there is no safe place from lightning when you’re outside. It’s important to be aware of weather forecasts and watch for developing thunderstorms as lightning can strike many miles ahead of a storm front. If you hear thunder, seek shelter immediately because it indicates lightning is within 10 miles of you. Safe shelters include inside a building or in an enclosed metal-topped vehicle. Authorities warn against outdoor activity until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder is heard.
Move over or slow down on the road
We need your help in keeping our lineworkers, engineers and maintenance workers safe on Iowa’s roadways. If you see any vehicle stopped on the side of the road with flashing lights activated, you are required by law to move over or slow down, preferably both. Please give our employees room on the road; their jobs are hazardous enough already.
John Dvorak is the director of safety and loss control for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.